UPDATED: 2:45 p.m. (ET)
Comcast and The Walt Disney Co. have reached a massive carriage deal that will deliver programming from an array of networks, including ESPN and ABC, to the MSO's customers across a variety of platforms on a long-term basis.
Financial terms of the deal, which covers 25 networks and 70 properties, were not disclosed, although the company said that license fee schedules for different services will be phased in over time.
Under the expansive contract, Comcast's Xfinity TV customers will be able to watch ESPN online for the first time on an authenticated basis.
The agreement also encompasses ABC Family, Disney Channel, Disney XD, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Buzzer Beater, ESPN 3D, ESPN GamePlan, ESPN FullCourt and ESPN3. It includes retransmission-consent for seven ABC-owned broadcast television stations (WABC-TV New York, WLS-TV Chicago, WPVI-TV Philadelphia, KGO-TV San Francisco, KTRK-TV Houston, KTVD-TV Raleigh-Durham, and KFSN-TV Fresno), as well as more than 10 high-definition networks.
Disney reached a similar distribution deal with Time Warner Cable in September 2010. In that deal, Time Warner Cable agreed to substantial increases for Disney's cable properties and to pay cash for retransmission of the ABC-owned TV stations.
The Disney-Comcast negotiations were not pushed by retransmission-consent deadlines -- the only renewals due at year-end were for Disney Channel, ABC Family and Disney XD, according to officials at the programmer.
The companies also agreed to collaborate to create new, innovative viewing experiences for Xfinity TV customers.
The deal comes at a time when some programmers and distributors are having disputes over the cost of programming, especially sports programming.
The new agreement also advances the TV Everywhere agenda for the cable business, which allows access to programming to viewers using computers, tablets and smart phones who can show that they subscribe to cable. TV Everywhere is designed to make subscribing to cable more attractive to consumer who might consider getting by on programming available online from non-linear providers such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu or iTunes.
Watch DisneyChannel and Watch ESPN are covered under the deal, with the latter expected to launch for Comcast subs this spring.
Comcast will also be launching Disney Junior, a new 24-hour basic channel for preschool-age children, parents and caregivers, under the deal. The network is expected to bow early in 2012.
"This landmark deal is a great example of what can be achieved when programmers and distributors collaborate and innovate together to meet the ever-evolving needs of consumers and enhance the viewing experience," Anne Sweeney, co-chairman, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, said in a statement. "By combining the best news, sports and entertainment content available today with cutting-edge technologies, we're able to fully realize our comprehensive TV+ initiative, and introduce a brand new suite of authenticated services to Comcast subscribers."
"Comcast was the first video provider to create technology that enabled us to deliver content to customers where and when they want it across any viewing experience," said Neil Smit, president and CEO, Comcast Cable. "We are very pleased to have reached this unprecedented and innovative, long-term agreement with Disney which embraces the future of entertainment and allows Comcast to continue to bring our vision of TV Everywhere to Xfinity customers whether at home or on the go."
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